“If the Day of Resurrection were established upon one of you while he has in his hand a sapling, then let him plant it.” (Hadith)
Today, we face a grand crisis the ecological crisis and we bear an awesome responsibility. There is an urgent and critical need to heal Mother Earth. The Quran informs us that God has appointed human beings as His representatives on Earth and admonishes us not to sow corruption on Earth. Furthermore, the holy Book teaches that God has bestowed upon humankind a sacred trust. This is the trust of awareness and free will. Using our awareness to make choices based on free will, we must enjoin what is good and forbid what is evil. And yet we know that in the last few centuries, and especially in the last few decades, human beings have exploited, plundered, and abused the Earth, Mother Nature.
I love the words of a wonderful scientist, Gus Speth, who was an advisor to President Carter on environmental issues in the White House. He said that for 30 years he thought that the biggest environmental problems were the loss of biodiversity, climate change and ecosystem collapse. For 30 years, as a scientist, he thought that we could solve these problems with scientific advancements. But now, he said, he had realized that the biggest environmental problems are greed, selfishness and apathy. The ecological crisis, then, is actually a spiritual problem and cannot be solved by scientists alone. The fact of the matter is that all of us each individual has to do the inner work on ourselves that is necessary to overcome greed, selfishness and apathy, that are at the root of the ecological crisis.
Now, this inner work is something we can do daily, setting aside some time for it. The need to grow in higher consciousness is paramount. Spiritual teachers tell us of a simple inner practice. We can keep Mother Earth in our heart for some moments and send out light and love in the course of our day to the polluted rivers, to the trees, to the flowers, to the animals, and so on. This is no insignificant matter. The vibrations of intentional love have an impact on ourselves as well as on the environment. These teachers counsel us also to be outwardly engaged. We can initiatea or support programs for restoring balance, harmony and love for Mother Earth. For instance, there is the popular project of planting trees. The Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said, “If the Day of Resurrection were established upon one of you while he has in his hand a sapling, then let him plant it.”
Nature has profound lessons to teach us. The Quran says that there are signs of God in Nature. Dozens of verses in the holy Book extol Nature and several chapters open with an oath invoking Nature— ‘By the dawn’, ‘By the fig and the olive’. The Quran teaches us that we will not find any flaws in Nature.
There are many lessons for life that we can learn from this “holy manuscript” of nature. Look at a fruit tree it gives and gives, again and again—to everyone, without distinction. This provides us a lesson in graciousness and hospitality. Consider another example from Nature: the fact that all rivers flow into the ocean is because the ocean lies at a level lower than that of the rivers. This is a lesson in humility.
Consider another example from Nature this time, for a lesson in overcoming a false sense of exclusivity be it in the name of religion or something else. All the rivers flow into the ocean. One might be floating down one river, but one must not mistake the river for the ocean itself. Likewise, the branches of a tree may sway differently, but they are all connected at the level of the roots—here is a message of interfaith inclusivity.
May we all truly look upon Nature as a holy manuscript and learn precious, life-giving lessons from it!